Supporting community-led change in Camden
Over the last decade Camden Council have commissioned a series of borough-wide surveys to understand and measure the nature and degree of social capital within their population. The third and most recent social capital survey, in 2008, suggested that on some measures residents of the Cantelowes ward scored lower than those in other parts of the borough.
To understand the community dynamics and important issues that shape life in the ward, Camden asked OPM to conduct in-depth research with residents. The project, called ‘Taking Part’, asked residents to think about how they could make a positive difference in their local area and improve the sense of community and neighbourliness.
What we did
In addition to exploring different dimensions of social capital and cohesion, we used a range of community involvement and Appreciative Inquiry interviewing approaches to draw out residents’ preferences and their capacity to take a greater role in their community.
This involved offering residents the chance to come together at a community workshop and think about the interests and concerns they have in common, as well as skills and ideas they might want to contribute, and then develop practical, inclusive and enjoyable projects that could be taken forward, with some support from OPM and the council along the way.
At the workshop residents showed much creativity and enthusiasm when exploring what might be possible, and were keen to make connections and offer their skills and time towards potential projects. In the current stage of the project, OPM is working collaboratively with residents and local community and voluntary groups to plan and carry out the most popular and workable ideas. As the project takes shape, OPM will report on the learning through a series of case studies and will develop a small suite of tools and resources to support similar interventions in other wards.
The community workshop and the very process of organising it has helped to strengthen networks and connections in the area and has galvanised community and voluntary groups and residents to tackle priority issues. Many residents involved in the process have made the transition from research participant to active citizen working to improve their area. The workshop and wider engagement has provided a ‘way in’ for residents to get more involved in their community. The process builds on the existing good work in the ward and aims to give residents the support and space to generate sustainable, fun and inclusive projects.
Learning about issues and how to achieve the best outcomes are what matter to residents. This is vital for a council that is keen to create the conditions and processes to encourage community-led change and create more cohesive neighbourhoods.